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Speed review projects

  • Why review speed limits?

    We’re reviewing speed limits to make sure they are safe and appropriate for the road. No matter what causes a crash, speed is always a factor in the severity. Put simply, the speed of impact can be the difference between walking away or being carried away from a crash. This is especially true when pedestrians or cyclists are involved. Speed also reduces the opportunity to react to a mistake, yours or someone else’s – the faster you are travelling, the less time you have.

    New Zealand’s population has increased over the past 10 years. That means more people using our roads more of the time and inevitably, more crashes.

    The Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2018/19–2027/28 (GPS 2018) supports investment to improve road safety through ensuring safe and appropriate travel speeds, and by improving roads, roadsides and intersections. An incremental, risk-based approach is being taken to speed management over the next ten years, targeting the areas of the network that pose the greatest risk to road users. The GPS sets out an expectation for the NZ Transport Agency and local road controlling authorities to focus on treating the top 10 percent of the network which will result in the greatest reduction in deaths and serious injuries, as quickly as possible. This can involve reviewing speed limits and/or making engineering improvements to make a road safe for its current speed limit.

    Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2018/19–2027/28 (GPS 2018)(external link)

    We’re also responding to communities who are understandably concerned that speeds that might have felt safe in the past, don’t any longer due to traffic volumes and increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists. While we need to balance the interests of everyone who uses the roads, if people are telling us the speeds in their communities feel too high, we want to look into it and make changes where appropriate.

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  • What will the speed reviews look at?

    It’s no secret that a lot of New Zealand’s roads can be challenging to drive as they are narrow and winding. Lower speeds give all motorists a second chance to either avoid a crash or at least walk away from one if it happens. The speed reviews will look at potential changes such as extending lower speed limits through townships and areas on the edge of townships. In these areas, drivers are often sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists who are more vulnerable in a crash. These reviews will look at changing speed limits on some high-risk rural roads where the current speed limits might no longer be safe and appropriate.

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  • What is the timeframe for doing these reviews?

    Making sure people have a chance to have their say is an important part of each review process. Timeframes for reviews will range from a few months to longer depending on what conversations have been had with communities, local and regional councils, road user representative groups and others with an interest in road safety. However, each review will be a priority for the Transport Agency to progress as quickly as possible to prevent deaths and serious injuries.

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  • Why don’t you invest more money in getting roads up to a higher standard, so speed limits don’t need to be reduced?

    Our road network is long and covers some challenging terrain. It has a lot of intersections, and crashes are spread widely across the country. This means that making sure speeds are safe on some sections of our roads is the quickest and most effective way we can prevent deaths and serious injuries. At the same time, speed is just one part of a $1.4 billion investment over three years through the Safe Network Programme to make some of New Zealand’s most dangerous roads safer. This work includes physical upgrades to state highways and local roads across the country, such as the installation of median and side barriers, the widening of shoulders and centre lines, intersection safety improvements and the installation of rumble strips.

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  • Won’t lower speeds make it take longer to get anywhere?

    Our research shows that reducing speed limits has a negligible effect on journey times.

    For trips where the maximum speed was reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h on a 10km length of road, journey times increased by only about 30–48 seconds. For local trips where the maximum speed was reduced from 50km/h to 40km/h, travel times increased by only about 11–42 seconds. To put this in context we know that even a 1km/h difference in speed can make a difference in whether someone survives a crash.

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  • What does a speed review involve?

    A speed review involves:

    • A technical assessment of the road to establish the previous crash history, the average speed vehicles are travelling on the road, number of vehicles a day using the road, what is happening around the road in terms of housing, urban development, businesses, and other activity on the road. This helps to determine what a safe and appropriate speed for the road should be – and if it is out of step with current speed limits.
    • Engagement with affected communities, councils, road user representative groups and other stakeholders, to get feedback and local knowledge on how people are using the road, concerns and things to be aware of to potentially address in the review. This helps us to decide if lowering the speed limit is the best thing to do, where new speed limits might begin/end and if any other safety improvements (better signs, for example) might be needed.
    • Formal consultation with affected communities, councils, road user representative groups and other stakeholders. Changing a speed limit is a legal process so this step is when we show people a detailed proposed speed limit and the exact start and end points for it on the road and ask for any other additional information that might have an impact on the final decision.
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  • Which roads will you be reviewing speed limits on?

    The GPS sets out an expectation for the NZ Transport Agency and local road controlling authorities to focus on treating the top 10 percent of the network which will result in the greatest reduction in deaths and serious injuries as quickly as possible. It is important to note that a speed limit review may result in a proposal to lower the speed limit, or in a decision to undertake engineering improvements to make the road safe at its current speed limit. In some cases speed limit reviews may find that current speed limits are safe and appropriate without the need for engineering improvements.

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Roads and roadsides projects

  • Why does it take so long to make the roads safer?

    We’re making many of these improvements to roads that people are driving on every day. It is important then that we take steps to keep our people safe while at working on these roads. This can affect the time it takes to get this work done and can limit the amount of work we can do at any one time.

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  • What are you doing to make sure this moves at the pace needed?

    We are prioritising sections of road  where we know we can make progress early. These areas are where we’ve already talked with communities and stakeholders about the likely safety improvements, and planning or design is already well underway. These roads may not be the highest-risk sections, but still represent good value. We continue to focus on the busier and higher risk parts of the network but making these safer will take longer, so we are making sure physical progress is made where we can.

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  • What have you already delivered on highways?

    Since October 2017, 10 of New Zealand’s rural highways have been made safer, with 113km of road barriers has been installed across these highways as well as 365km of improvements such as rumble strips, line markings, improved signs, and widened shoulders. We have also installed Intersection Speed Zones at seven intersections as part of the Safety Boost Programme.

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  • What is being delivered right now?

    A further 13 projects are in construction. Once work on these projects is completed, the following safety improvements will have been added to high-risk rural state highways across the country:

    • 280km of barriers (47km of median barriers and 232km of roadside barriers)
    • 3920kms of rumble strips and line markings
    • Wide centerlines across nine projects
    • 10 intersection speed zone signs.
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  • How do safety barriers prevent deaths and serious injuries?

    Road safety barriers are a road safety success story, proven to make a real difference. When fitted along the side and centre of the road, they can reduce the severity of crashes so that the number of people killed is reduced by up to 90 per cent.

    Centennial Highway on SH1 north of Wellington is a great example of how effective flexible median barriers are. Since the installation of the barrier in 2009, it has been hit about 127 times without a single death and only two serious injuries on this road (as at December 2018).

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  • How do they work?

    Flexible road safety barriers ‘catch’ vehicles that leave their lane before they hit something less forgiving – like other vehicles or trees, poles and ditches. When a vehicle hits a barrier, the wire cables flex, slowing down the vehicle and keeping it upright during and after a collision. The barrier absorbs the impact, reducing the force on the people in the vehicle.

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  • Will the barriers prevent emergency services getting past cars in an emergency?

    During the design phase, careful consideration is given to the width between the barriers to allow for breakdowns, road maintenance, and to allow emergency vehicles to pass.

    The Transport Agency works closely with Fire and Emergency NZ and other stakeholders to understand their requirements. Before adding barriers, where possible the road may be widened to gives sufficient width for emergency vehicles to pass.

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Safe Network Programme

  • What makes the programme different to other safety programmes?

    The programme is different in that success relies on partnering with local government. It is not only about state highways, but also local roads – all connected to make a safer journey. The programme will be more rapidly delivered, including streamlined approval processes and increased funding to encourage local government to invest in further safety improvements.

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  • How much faster will safety improvements be made?

    The streamlined investment pathway for safety projects will save between six and 18 months depending upon the complexity of the project.  For example, the Dome Valley business case to get funding for detailed design took 13 months. Under the new pathway this is likely to have only taken about four months.

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